Redskins’ Monk Leads League in Superlatives
Art Monk has 791 receptions and 10,847 yards and, before he’s done, is virtually assured of being the most-prolific pass catcher in NFL history. Still, a string of dazzling numbers can’t begin to explain his success, for he certainly isn’t the fastest, strongest or biggest wide receiver in pro football.
Yet there’s little argument about his worth. Around the NFL, he’s considered the prototypical professional and a graceful, seemingly ageless receiver. “I’ve been here seven years and I still haven’t picked up a step on him,” teammate Gary Clark said. “Don’t kid yourself. Art takes a lot of pride in that. He pushes himself a little harder each year.”
Around Redskin Park, he’s even more. He may be the most-respected player a proud franchise has ever had, a guy whose work habits and performance standards are so high that he’s one of the players all others, regardless of position, are measured against.
This week, when Redskins special-teams coach Wayne Sevier wanted to let his players know how unhappy he was with their effort in Sunday’s 20-14 victory at Phoenix, he showed not videotapes of special-teams plays, but tapes of others.
He began with Monk. The game in Phoenix was tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, and Monk caught a first-down pass along the left sideline. Instead of taking the easy dash out of bounds, he buried his head and shoulder and crashed into cornerback Lorenzo Lynch for an extra three yards.
“Art Monk is a Hall of Famer,” Sevier said. “He’s one of the greatest who ever lived. He never says a word. He doesn’t toot his own horn. He’s playing against the Phoenix Cardinals, and here was his attitude. Here was the statement he made about himself. When he could have ducked out, he didn’t. ...
“That’s the way Art Monk was playing this game, and we were lying down against them on special teams. We didn’t give the same effort on our assignments that guys who are going to be in the Pro Bowl gave. I made the point that this is the way you go to the Pro Bowl. This is the way you stay in the league for 13 years.”
Which might be the point about Monk. Ask a dozen Redskins about his special gifts on the field and they talk about an off-the-field story. They talk about his character and toughness. They talk about his discipline. They talk about his drive to succeed.
Press them and they will talk about, first of all, his strength. Coach Joe Gibbs recalled watching Monk during training camp when he was teaching wide receivers a certain finesse move to escape a cornerback. But when Monk broke from the line of scrimmage he used his 6 feet 3 inches and 209 pounds to plow through the defensive back.
“He’ll just outmuscle them,” Gibbs said. “There are times you see the films, and it looks like he just slaps a guy away and gets the football.”
There are other talents. He runs precise routes and, according to Ricky Sanders, “comes out of the route so quickly. That’s what a quarterback likes. He creates a big target and he’ll get the football if it’s anywhere around him. He’s a big guy, strong and quick. It’s unique to see someone that big that can run that fast.”
Then there is speed. He’s 34 and it has become popular to talk of him only as a reliable possession receiver, and not the burner who can get down the field. But the Redskins have more than one clip this season when he has come off the line of scrimmage and simply burst past a defensive back. He has receptions of 64 and 63 yards this season -- the fourth- and fifth-longest catches of his career. He also has a 54-yarder and a 46-yarder. But it’s impossible to break down the talents without a look at the whole package.
“The first thing you look at is the person,” Gibbs said. “He’s one of the best prepared of all the guys we’ve had. No one works harder in the weight room. I’ll go in there and he’ll be running on that treadmill at any hour. ... He has everything. He’s big and strong. He’s intelligent. You don’t get the whole package too often.”